- Original Release: 1995
- Developer: Origin Systems
- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Genre: Action Game
From genre to genre, countless games are built on the basis that gamers love to destroy things. From the lowly red barrel to show-stopping nukes, the ability to blow s**t up is a fulfilling and often cathartic experience. A deeper layer is added to this when considering destructible environments, something done to great effect in the Red Faction series. The trick is finding a balance between wholesale demolition and keeping a player within the structural boundaries of the game. A game needs boundaries, but also a bit of freedom, this is where Crusader: No Remorse gets it all right.
Crusader is set in a far future in which the Earth has fallen under control of the Consortium, a tyrannical economic superpower. Playing as a mysterious super-soldier called “The Silencer” (and not “The Crusader” as one would assume), you undertake a series of 15 missions, infiltrating and sabotaging Consortium installations around the world in an attempt to weaken their hold on the planet.
Most notable about Crusader‘s gameplay is it’s similarity to Origin’s critically mixed Ultima VIII: Pagan, having been built from a modified version of Ultima‘s engine. Operating on what I can best describe as a kind of loose isometric grid, each of the game’s environments is littered with doors, walls, barrels, boxes, lifts, traps, gangways, floors and devices all of which carry varying degrees of destructibility.
The destructibility offers wide player choice for approaching every level. For instance, if you’re unable to find the key or access code for a locked door, you can just blow the door away at the risk of sounding the alarm, bringing soldiers or the often overpowered killer robots down on you. Enemies, secret places and whole sections can also be circumvented or unlocked by use of destruction. Cover you or the enemy are gleefully kneeling behind can suddenly be destroyed, as can explosive objects and sometimes even the floor below your or your enemies’ feet, leaving the unwitting victim to plunge into vats of acid or molten lava below.
The Silencer is able to shoot, run, roll and jump in a semi-rigid 360 degree arc that allows for a surprising amount of technical combat ability. Smart use of cover, environmental destruction and the arsenal of weapons, gadgets and interactive objects is necessary to overcoming the game’s sharp difficulty curve.
At the time of its release Crusader fell into the category of “Action Game”, a broad genre typically reserved for fast-paced and varied titles which didn’t easily fit into the genres of the day. By today’s standards the fundamentals of Crusader’s gameplay could more accurately be likened to a Twin Stick Shooter, years before such controllers or genre existed. I played through Crusader using the admittedly janky keyboard controls, but I have been told that it is playable with a controller, a feature I may try if I ever get around to replaying the sequel: Crusader: No Regret.
As the alleged inspiration behind Fallout and Diablo, Crusader: No Remorse is a fantastic and challenging exemplar of action-packed isometric gaming for those willing to put up with it’s high difficulty level.
Crusader: No Remorse is available on GOG.com.